CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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PRECISE NAVIGATION!

Today, we place a ton of trust in a global device to get from where we are to where we want to be, right?! I don’t even go across town without it because I am so directionally impaired!  However, our trust has been built in our vehicle’s navigational system over time.  When new on the market, we would sometimes be guided into places that were filled with construction dangers and detours. We carried a paper map as backup.  Sometimes the system would take us to the wrong place completely or end up on a dead-end street or alley!  But today the navigational process has improved and even warns us of dangers ahead with optional routes to take.  It even tells us where we can get fuel and food!  Impressive, right?

What if we had as much trust in God as our guide on the journey through life as we have in our man-made devices to get us where we really and truly need to be?

What if GOD was all you had?  (Like in the “old days”?)

Exodus 13, The Message

1-2 God spoke to Moses, saying, “Set apart every firstborn to me—the first one to come from the womb among the Israelites, whether person or animal, is mine.”

Moses said to the people, “Always remember this day. This is the day when you came out of Egypt from a house of slavery. God brought you out of here with a powerful hand. Don’t eat any raised bread.

4-5 “You are leaving in the spring month of Abib. When God brings you into the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which he promised to your fathers to give you, a land lavish with milk and honey, you are to observe this service during this month:

“You are to eat unraised bread for seven days; on the seventh day there is a festival celebration to God.

“Only unraised bread is to be eaten for seven days. There is not to be a trace of anything fermented—no yeast anywhere.

“Tell your child on that day: ‘This is because of what God did for me when I came out of Egypt.’

9-10 “The day of observance will be like a sign on your hand, a memorial between your eyes, and the teaching of God in your mouth. It was with a powerful hand that God brought you out of Egypt. Follow these instructions at the set time, year after year after year.

11-13 “When God brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he promised you and your fathers, and turns it over to you, you are to set aside the first birth out of every womb to God. Every first birth from your livestock belongs to God. You can redeem every first birth of a donkey if you want to by substituting a lamb; if you decide not to redeem it, you must break its neck.

13-16 “Redeem every firstborn child among your sons. When the time comes and your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you tell him, ‘God brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery, with a powerful hand. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, God killed every firstborn in Egypt, the firstborn of both humans and animals. That’s why I make a sacrifice for every first male birth from the womb to God and redeem every firstborn son.’ The observance functions like a sign on your hands or a symbol on the middle of your forehead: God brought us out of Egypt with a powerful hand.”

17 It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, “If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.”

18 So God led the people on the wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea. The Israelites left Egypt in military formation.

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the Israelites solemnly swear to do it, saying, “God will surely hold you accountable, so make sure you bring my bones from here with you.”

20-22 They moved on from Succoth and then camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness. God went ahead of them in a Pillar of Cloud during the day to guide them on the way, and at night in a Pillar of Fire to give them light; thus they could travel both day and night. The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

My first thought is this:  The Israelites have been told where to work, what to do, where to live for over four hundred years!  They were not allowed to think for themselves.  They are now no longer slaves in bondage; they are free to think again!  Their mind muscles will need to be exercised again in this freedom.  So until then, God guides and provides.  God gathers his people, with Moses in the lead.  In an organized, “military-like” formation, God leads them through the wilderness instead of going the “faster route” for their own protection.  God KNOWS what lies ahead, He knows what is bests for us because He knows what we can endure or handle in our growth to reply solely on Him.  God is even better than Siri, our GPS!  I know!  Can you imagine?  God says to us daily, “TRUST ME, I’ve got this!”  But, do we?

GOD WANTS US TO REMEMBER what He has done so we will not fall back to our own smallness of self without Him.  Because of God’s mighty acts in protecting and redeeming His people and saving the firstborn of humans and livestock from death, all the firstborn belonged to God. They were sanctified, that is, set apart for God’s exclusive possession.  When a firstborn son was redeemed, or a firstborn animal, it gave adults the opportunity to explain how God had rescued the firstborn in the land of Goshen on Passover night.

NEW FREEDOM IS A LEARNING PROCESS!  It is a mark of maturity when we learn that freedom is a tool to build with, not a toy to play with, and that freedom involves accepting responsibility. Israel’s Exodus experience taught them that their future success lay in fulfilling three important responsibilities: following the Lord (vv. 17–22), trusting the Lord (Exodus 14:1–31), and praising the Lord (Exodus 15:12–21).

The person who trusts Jesus Christ is born again into the family of God, but that’s just the beginning of an exciting new adventure that should lead to growth. God liberates us and then leads us through the varied experiences of life, a day at a time, so that we might get to know Him better and claim by faith all that He wants us to have. At the same time, we come to know ourselves better; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, and we grow in understanding God’s will and trusting His promises.

GOD NEVER LEAVES US!  This passage leads us to an encouraging truth about our God; “The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people.” 

Jesus reminded His disciples (and us) about this truth.  “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

Dear Friends, where God guides, God provides.  Always and forever.  I am proof of a life that learned through trial and error and I am still learning that God knows the best path, through all kinds of terrain and troubles, through good times and bad.  He is consistently teaching me on the journey and amazing me with His power, wisdom and love.  God knows me.  God knows what is best for me.  God knows what I need to do His will.  And through it all, I know God will not leave me. 

Let God navigate your journey!

Lord,

Thank for all you have done, are doing and will do on my brief journey on earth!  Thank you for teaching me, being patient with me while loving me unconditionally.  There is no like you!  Guide my every thought and action today.  I live with expectancy and hope with you!

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!

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THE PASSOVER – TIME TO LEAVE!

This is the most pivotal passage in the story of God in the Old Testament.  God frees his people from the bondage of their oppressors.  Everything about this passage is symbolic and prophetic of how God will send His Son, The Lamb of God, to die for us so that all who believe will not perish but live forever with Him!  God does all in His time, according to His plan, to display His power over all while showing His amazing love as He extends His generous grace and undeserved mercies to His created people. 

Bear in mind, Jesus is there with God.  Try to picture God talking to Moses through all the specific details with Jesus, who is part of God, listening with understanding for what will happen centuries later through Him once and for all. (Mind blown?) Redemption comes at a cost. 

Here Redemption for the Israelites means choosing the best lamb in the herd, killing it, then smearing the blood on the doorposts of their homes signifying “We are God’s people,” while the rest of the lamb is roasted and consumed.  It’s a bittersweet time.  The bitter herbs will remind them of this precious time that will be talked about each year for generations.  The lamb is to consumed by the family—food to sustain them for the quick exit from years of slavery and bondage to the promised land God planned for them long ago.  Let’s get our sandals on!  It is time to leave!  It’s time to be free at last!

Exodus 12, The Message

1-10 God said to Moses and Aaron while still in Egypt, “This month is to be the first month of the year for you. Address the whole community of Israel; tell them that on the tenth of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one lamb to a house. If the family is too small for a lamb, then share it with a close neighbor, depending on the number of persons involved. Be mindful of how much each person will eat. Your lamb must be a healthy male, one year old; you can select it from either the sheep or the goats. Keep it penned until the fourteenth day of this month and then slaughter itthe entire community of Israel will do this—at dusk. Then take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which you will eat it. You are to eat the meat, roasted in the fire, that night, along with bread, made without yeast, and bitter herbs. Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water; make sure it’s roasted—the whole animal, head, legs, and innards. Don’t leave any of it until morning; if there are leftovers, burn them in the fire.

11 “And here is how you are to eat it: Be fully dressed with your sandals on and your stick in your hand. Eat in a hurry; it’s the Passover to God.

12-13 “I will go through the land of Egypt on this night and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, whether human or animal, and bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am God. The blood will serve as a sign on the houses where you live. When I see the blood I will pass over you—no disaster will touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14-16 “This will be a memorial day for you; you will celebrate it as a festival to God down through the generations, a fixed festival celebration to be observed always. You will eat unraised bread (matzoth) for seven days: On the first day get rid of all yeast from your houses—anyone who eats anything with yeast from the first day to the seventh day will be cut off from Israel. The first and the seventh days are set aside as holy; do no work on those days. Only what you have to do for meals; each person can do that.

17-20 “Keep the Festival of Unraised Bread! This marks the exact day I brought you out in force from the land of Egypt. Honor the day down through your generations, a fixed festival to be observed always. In the first month, beginning on the fourteenth day at evening until the twenty-first day at evening, you are to eat unraised bread. For those seven days not a trace of yeast is to be found in your houses. Anyone, whether a visitor or a native of the land, who eats anything raised shall be cut off from the community of Israel. Don’t eat anything raised. Only matzoth.”

21-23 Moses assembled all the elders of Israel. He said, “Select a lamb for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the bowl of blood and smear it on the lintel and on the two doorposts. No one is to leave the house until morning. God will pass through to strike Egypt down. When he sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, God will pass over the doorway; he won’t let the destroyer enter your house to strike you down with ruin.

24-27 “Keep this word. It’s the law for you and your children, forever. When you enter the land which God will give you as he promised, keep doing this. And when your children say to you, ‘Why are we doing this?’ tell them: ‘It’s the Passover-sacrifice to God who passed over the homes of the Israelites in Egypt when he hit Egypt with death but rescued us.’”

The people bowed and worshiped.

28 The Israelites then went and did what God had commanded Moses and Aaron. They did it all.

* * *

29 At midnight God struck every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, right down to the firstborn of the prisoner locked up in jail. Also the firstborn of the animals.

30 Pharaoh got up that night, he and all his servants and everyone else in Egypt—what wild wailing and lament in Egypt! There wasn’t a house in which someone wasn’t dead.

31-32 Pharaoh called in Moses and Aaron that very night and said, “Get out of here and be done with you—you and your Israelites! Go worship God on your own terms. And yes, take your sheep and cattle as you’ve insisted, but go. And bless me.”

33 The Egyptians couldn’t wait to get rid of them; they pushed them to hurry up, saying, “We’re all as good as dead.”

34-36 The people grabbed their bread dough before it had risen, bundled their bread bowls in their cloaks and threw them over their shoulders. The Israelites had already done what Moses had told them; they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold things and clothing. God saw to it that the Egyptians liked the people and so readily gave them what they asked for. Oh yes! They picked those Egyptians clean.

37-39 The Israelites moved on from Rameses to Succoth, about 600,000 on foot, besides their dependents. Hebrews and non-Hebrews alike set out, not to mention the large flocks and herds of livestock. They baked unraised cakes with the bread dough they had brought out of Egypt; it hadn’t raised—they’d been rushed out of Egypt and hadn’t time to fix food for the journey.

The Passover

40-42 The Israelites had lived in Egypt 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, God’s entire army left EgyptGod kept watch all night, watching over the Israelites as he brought them out of Egypt. Because God kept watch, all Israel for all generations will honor God by keeping watch this night—a watchnight.

43-47 God said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the rules for the Passover:

No foreigners are to eat it.

Any slave, if he’s paid for and circumcised, can eat it.

No casual visitor or hired hand can eat it.

Eat it in one house—don’t take the meat outside the house.

Don’t break any of the bones.

The whole community of Israel is to be included in the meal.

48 “If an immigrant is staying with you and wants to keep the Passover to God, every male in his family must be circumcised, then he can participate in the Meal—he will then be treated as a native son. But no uncircumcised person can eat it.

49 “The same law applies both to the native and the immigrant who is staying with you.”

50-51 All the Israelites did exactly as God commanded Moses and Aaron. That very day God brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, tribe by tribe.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?  (SO MUCH HERE…)

“When I see the blood, I will pass, I will pass over you!” This old hymn from my childhood is playing in the background of my mind.  It means so much more now as I am older and understand the meaning of the Passover in preparation for the coming of Christ as our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, who saved all who will believe!

“…John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  John 1:29

Passover marked a new beginning for the Israelites and bound them together as a nation. When the Lord liberates you from bondage, it’s the dawning of a new day and the beginning of a new life. Whenever you see the words “redeem” or “redemption” in the New Testament, they speak of freedom from slavery. (There were an estimated 60 million slaves in the Roman empire.) Jewish believers would immediately think of Passover and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt through the blood of the lamb.

The annual observance of Passover would give parents another opportunity to teach their children the meaning of their freedom and what God did for them. The adults were to be “living links” with Israel’s past so that each new generation would understand what it meant to be a member of God’s chosen nation. (See Deuteronomy 6:1–15)

Remember God gave.  God gave His people a Way out of Egypt who enslaved them.  God gave his Son as THE WAY out of the bondage for all nations!  Jesus forgives all our sins.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  God always keeps His promises.  Jesus is the Promise of Eternal Life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Passover marked the beginning of the religious year, and at Passover the focus is on the lamb.  Our focus today is on the Lamb!  What do we tell our children…and grandchildren?  What will they tell their kids and grandkids?

Here is another parallel.  The lamb was slain and its blood was applied to the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses in which the Israelite families lived. It wasn’t the life of the lamb that saved the people from judgment—it was the death of the lamb. “Without shedding of blood, there is no remission” Hebrews 9:22.  Some people who claim to admire the life and teachings of Jesus don’t want the cross of Jesus, yet it’s His death on the cross that paid the price of our redemption. Jesus was our substitute; He died our death for us and suffered the judgment of our sin. 

It was important to see the wholeness of the lamb, not boiled but roasted, so no bones broken.  We trust Christ that we might be saved from our sins by His sacrifice, but we must also feed on Christ in order to have strength for our daily journey with Him. As we worship, meditate on the Word, pray, and believe, we take in the spiritual nourishment of Jesus Christ and grow in grace and knowledge.

The lesson here is obvious: Unless we are protected by the blood of Christ, when death comes, we’ll be completely unprepared, and we don’t know when death is coming.  Are you ready? Sandals on? Are you ready to exit the life with the Lamb and be free to love God with all your heart, mind and soul?

Forever, Jesus will be celebrated as the Lamb of God who died for our sin and rose again defeated death—once and for all!  All sins erased for those who believe. And in eternity…

“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  Revelation 5:9

Lord,

Thank you for saving my soul and making me whole.  May we never forget your faithfulness, your love, mercy and grace that set us free to love like you love us.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!  Yes!


When I see the blood, When I see the blood, When I see the blood,
I will pass, I will pass over you.

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NOT GONNA LISTEN

Listen to God?!  We don’t even listen to each other!  Seriously friends, we talk a good line about care and compassionate understanding while our minds are really thinking about how we are going to answer whoever is talking with our opinions and desires.  We are skillful at looking intently into the eyes of another but be thinking we are on island somewhere sipping a cool drink.  It happens in staff meetings, family reunions, church, and any other place where a human speaks with another.

As a teacher of young students, I poured my heart out one day to a reading group about how to form words into sentences.  After my “dissertation,” one of my first graders, who I thought was intently watching me speak the whole time, giving me confidence as teacher, said to me, “Mrs. Callaway, that is a beautiful necklace!”  Sigh.  You begin to know who is truly listening and who is not.

Listening is an art that is skillfully learned and perfected with practice.  It requires our minds engaged, not in ourselves, but in others and what they are saying.  It requires looking into someone’s eyes while noticing how they are saying their words so that true understanding can take place.  A great listener is quiet, does not interrupt, isn’t thinking about how they will respond tritely, or how they will arrogantly change the topic altogether.  A good listener truly hears what the other person is saying from their heart.  A true listener can repeat exactly what the other person is saying to clarify understanding between hearts.  A caring listener hears what they are not saying. 

True listening can change a life or destroy it.

Pharoah is not listening to God through Moses.  Death will change the lives of all Egyptians, including Pharoah, as a result.

Exodus 11, The Message

Strike Ten: Death

11 God said to Moses: “I’m going to hit Pharaoh and Egypt one final time, and then he’ll let you go.When he releases you, that will be the end of Egypt for you; he won’t be able to get rid of you fast enough.

2-3 “So here’s what you do. Tell the people to ask, each man from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor, for things made of silver and gold.” God saw to it that the Egyptians liked the people. Also, Moses was greatly admired by the Egyptians, a respected public figure among both Pharaoh’s servants and the people at large.

4-7 Then Moses confronted Pharaoh: “God’s Message: ‘At midnight I will go through Egypt and every firstborn child in Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the firstborn of the slave girl working at her hand mill. Also the firstborn of animals. Widespread wailing will erupt all over the country, lament such as has never been and never will be again. But against the Israelites—man, woman, or animal—there won’t be so much as a dog’s bark, so that you’ll know that God makes a clear distinction between Egypt and Israel.’

“Then all these servants of yours will grovel before me, begging me to leave, ‘Leave! You and all the people who follow you!’ And I will most certainly leave.”

Moses, seething with anger, left Pharaoh.

God said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s not going to listen to a thing you say so that the signs of my presence and work are going to multiply in the land of Egypt.”

10 Moses and Aaron had performed all these signs in Pharaoh’s presence, but God turned Pharaoh more stubborn than ever—yet again he refused to release the Israelites from his land.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

God had promised Abraham that his descendants would leave Egypt with great wealth (Genesis 15:14), and he repeated that promise to Moses (Exodus 3:21, 22). God had given His servant Moses great respect among the Egyptians, and now He would give the Israelites great favor with the Egyptians, who would freely give their wealth to them.

Listen to what God says, for His promises are true and will happen in His time in His ways.

In most cultures, firstborn sons are considered special, and in Egypt, they were considered sacred. We must remember that God calls Israel his firstborn son.  At the very beginning of their conflict, Moses warned Pharaoh that the way he treated God’s firstborn would determine how God treated Egypt’s firstborn.

Listen to what God says, for His words are true.

When we read the Book of Genesis, we learned that God often rejected the firstborn son and chose the next son to carry on the family line and receive God’s special blessing. God chose Abel, and then Seth, but not Cain; He chose Shem, not Japheth; Isaac, not Ishmael; and Jacob, not Esau. 

These choices not only magnify God’s sovereign grace, but they are a symbolic way of saying that it is not our first birth that makes us right with God. We must experience a second birth, a spiritual birth, before God can accept us (John 1:12, 13; 3:1–18)., because of our first birth, we inherit Adam’s sinful nature and are lost, but when we experience a second birth through faith in Christ, we receive God’s divine nature and are accepted in Christ.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  John 1:12-13

Listen to God calling you and others to believe and be saved from sin, to be free from hold sin has on our lives.

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”  Romans 8:9

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  Galatians 4:6

As we call out to our Father God, He listens!  He hears every word on our lips before we speak from our minds.  He also hears our hearts.

Listen to God’s Spirit living in us, growing us in His character, like Peter teaches us—


“This letter is from Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ.  I am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior.

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:1-8, NLT

To know God is to be still, let go of all other thinking and really listen to God.  We will discover that perfecting our listening to God perfects our listening to each other!

Lord,

Help me to remove all that hinders my listening to you and to others.  Help me to be still and really listen to you seeking your understanding each morning.  I don’t want to fall behind or step ahead in walking with you.  I want to be by your side, holding your hand, while knowing you are all around me.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for listening to my words and my heart.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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HOW LONG?

Locusts are loud as well as obnoxiously destructive.  Can you imagine seeing the earth covered with them? The only thing that comes close in my experience are the swarms of June bugs that would harass us at church camp each summer. The boys loved throwing them on the girls. The legs of the bug with clamp onto your skin or clothes, and especially your hair.  Lots of squealing from June bugs interrupted many worship nights at camp, that’s for sure! 

I’ve been camping when on my way to the bathroom during the night, my flashlight decided not to work.  Darkness is frightening—until we see the light ahead to follow!  The big question is how long until I see the light?

As we attempt to put ourselves into the story, imagine being an Egyptian citizen just trying to go about their daily tasks as all the plagues began to hit because of their stubborn leader.  The longing question on their minds is finally expressed by the servants of Pharoah, “HOW LONG?”  “How long are you going to let this man harass us? Let these people go and worship their God. Can’t you see that Egypt is on its last legs?”  AND imagine looking over at the Israelites and noticing that NONE of this was happening to them!

Exodus 10, The Message

Strike Eight: Locusts

1-2 God said to Moses: “Go to Pharaoh. I’ve made him stubborn, him and his servants, so that I can force him to look at these signs and so you’ll be able to tell your children and grandchildren how I toyed with the Egyptians, like a cat with a mouse; you’ll tell them the stories of the signs that I brought down on them, so that you’ll all know that I am God.”

3-6 Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “God, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘How long are you going to refuse to knuckle under? Release my people so that they can worship me. If you refuse to release my people, watch out; tomorrow I’m bringing locusts into your country. They’ll cover every square inch of ground; no one will be able to see the ground. They’ll devour everything left over from the hailstorm, even the saplings out in the fields—they’ll clear-cut the trees. And they’ll invade your houses, filling the houses of your servants, filling every house in Egypt. Nobody will have ever seen anything like this, from the time your ancestors first set foot on this soil until today.’”

Then he turned on his heel and left Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long are you going to let this man harass us? Let these people go and worship their God. Can’t you see that Egypt is on its last legs?”

So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. He said to them, “Go ahead then. Go worship your God. But just who exactly is going with you?”

Moses said, “We’re taking young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds—this is our worship-celebration of God.”

10-11 He said, “I’d sooner send you off with God’s blessings than let you go with your children. Look, you’re up to no good—it’s written all over your faces. No way. Just the men are going—go ahead and worship God. That’s what you want so badly.” And they were thrown out of Pharaoh’s presence.

12 God said to Moses: “Stretch your hand over Egypt and signal the locusts to cover the land of Egypt, devouring every blade of grass in the country, everything that the hail didn’t get.”

13 Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt. God let loose an east wind. It blew that day and night. By morning the east wind had brought in the locusts.

14-15 The locusts covered the country of Egypt, settling over every square inch of Egypt; the place was thick with locusts. There never was an invasion of locusts like it in the past, and never will be again. The ground was completely covered, black with locusts. They ate everything, every blade of grass, every piece of fruit, anything that the hail didn’t get. Nothing left but bare trees and bare fields—not a sign of green in the whole land of Egypt.

16-17 Pharaoh had Moses and Aaron back in no time. He said, “I’ve sinned against your God and against you. Overlook my sin one more time. Pray to your God to get me out of this—get death out of here!”

18-19 Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to God. God reversed the wind—a powerful west wind took the locusts and dumped them into the Red Sea. There wasn’t a single locust left in the whole country of Egypt.

20 But God made Pharaoh stubborn as ever. He still didn’t release the Israelites.

Strike Nine: Darkness

21 God said to Moses: “Stretch your hand to the skies. Let darkness descend on the land of Egypt—a darkness so dark you can touch it.”

22-23 Moses stretched out his hand to the skies. Thick darkness descended on the land of Egypt for three days. Nobody could see anybody. For three days no one could so much as move. Except for the Israelites: they had light where they were living.

24 Pharaoh called in Moses: “Go and worship God. Leave your flocks and herds behind. But go ahead and take your children.”

25-26 But Moses said, “You have to let us take our sacrificial animals and offerings with us so we can sacrifice them in worship to our God. Our livestock has to go with us with not a hoof left behind; they are part of the worship of our God. And we don’t know just what will be needed until we get there.”

27 But God kept Pharaoh stubborn as ever. He wouldn’t agree to release them.

28 Pharaoh said to Moses: “Get out of my sight! And watch your step. I don’t want to ever see you again. If I lay eyes on you again, you’re dead.”

29 Moses said, “Have it your way. You won’t see my face again.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

TELL OF THE GREATNESS OF GOD

When God gave Moses the instructions for his next meeting with Pharaoh, He added another reason for the great display of His wonders in the plagues: that the Israelites might be able to tell the generations to come about the awesome power of their great God. 

This purpose was also written into the Passover feast. Whether in the family or the local church, it’s good for each new generation to learn and appreciate the way God has worked on behalf of previous generations.

When we learn to recall and give thanks to God for all He has done and is doing as a way of life, in front of our children and grandchildren, it instills the knowledge of the greatness of God in them while displaying our consistent gratitude to God. 

GOD IS GOD!  

The plague of locusts was the most devastating natural calamity to hit the land of Egypt in all Egyptian history. In destroying the vegetation, God not only left the land bankrupt, but He triumphed over Osiris, the Egyptian god of fertility and crops. He also proved that He had control over the wind.

AND HE’LL DO IT AGAIN!

I’m reminded of Jesus, God’s Son, who is God, say to the wind, “Quiet, be still!”, proving again the power of God!  The disciples retold this story to their family and friends and it came down to us…

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  Mark 4:35-41

AND HIS POWER IS IN US!

Yes, tell of the greatness of God to everyone you know and meet!  Generation after generation after generation…

Lord,

May I never be silent in telling of your greatness and power, your saving grace, your everlasting faithfulness and your relentless love for us!  Help me to tell it, shout it, and show it!  In whatever way fits the situation and circumstance, give me the right words at the right time in the right Spirit to tell your story of who you are and what you have done, are doing and will do.  You are God and I am not.  To you be the glory, honor and praise!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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GOD HAS OUR BACKS!

As we study the account of the plagues of Egypt, we need to keep in mind the purposes God was fulfilling through these momentous events. First of all, He was showing His great power to Pharaoh and his officials and proving to them that He alone is the true and living God. At the same time, the Lord was also exposing the futility of the Egyptian religion and the vanity of the many gods they worshiped, including Pharaoh himself.  

Do we really believe what God says is really real?  The depth of our belief will affect our behaviors.

All that God did to Egypt was a reminder to His people that their God was fighting for them and they didn’t have to worry or be afraid.  When get overwhelmed with life is usually when we are trying to control life and do it all our way.  Let go of that notion and let God do what He does best!  Watch what God will do—even today!

Exodus 9, The Message

Strike Five: Animals

1-4 God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, says: Release my people so they can worship me. If you refuse to release them and continue to hold on to them, I’m giving you fair warning: God will come down hard on your livestock out in the fields—horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep—striking them with a severe disease. God will draw a sharp line between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt. Not one animal that belongs to the Israelites will die.’”

Then God set the time: “Tomorrow God will do this thing.”

6-7 And the next day God did it. All the livestock of Egypt died, but not one animal of the Israelites died. Pharaoh sent men to find out what had happened and there it was: none of the livestock of the Israelites had died—not one death. But Pharaoh stayed stubborn. He wouldn’t release the people.

Strike Six: Boils

8-11 God said to Moses and Aaron, “Take fistfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses throw it into the air right before Pharaoh’s eyes; it will become a film of fine dust all over Egypt and cause sores, an eruption of boils on people and animals throughout Egypt.” So they took soot from a furnace, stood in front of Pharaoh, and threw it up into the air. It caused boils to erupt on people and animals. The magicians weren’t able to compete with Moses this time because of the boils—they were covered with boils just like everyone else in Egypt.

12 God hardened Pharaoh in his stubbornness. He wouldn’t listen, just as God had said to Moses.

Strike Seven: Hail

13-19 God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, says: Release my people so they can worship me. This time I am going to strike you and your servants and your people with the full force of my power so you’ll get it into your head that there’s no one like me anywhere in all the Earth. You know that by now I could have struck you and your people with deadly disease and there would be nothing left of you, not a trace. But for one reason only I’ve kept you on your feet: To make you recognize my power so that my reputation spreads in all the Earth. You are still building yourself up at my people’s expense. You are not letting them go. So here’s what’s going to happen: At this time tomorrow I’m sending a terrific hailstorm—there’s never been a storm like this in Egypt from the day of its founding until now. So get your livestock under roof—everything exposed in the open fields, people and animals, will die when the hail comes down.’”

20-21 All of Pharaoh’s servants who had respect for God’s word got their workers and animals under cover as fast as they could, but those who didn’t take God’s word seriously left their workers and animals out in the field.

22 God said to Moses: “Stretch your hands to the skies. Signal the hail to fall all over Egypt on people and animals and crops exposed in the fields of Egypt.”

23-26 Moses lifted his staff to the skies and God sent cracks of thunder and hail shot through with lightning strikes. God rained hail down on the land of Egypt. The hail came, hail and lightning—a fierce hailstorm. There had been nothing like it in Egypt in its entire history. The hail hit hard all over Egypt. Everything exposed out in the fields, people and animals and crops, was smashed. Even the trees in the fields were shattered. Except for Goshen where the Israelites lived; there was no hail in Goshen.

27-28 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. He said, “I’ve sinned for sure this time—God is in the right and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to God. We’ve had enough of God’s thunder and hail. I’ll let you go. The sooner you’re out of here the better.”

29-30 Moses said, “As soon as I’m out of the city, I’ll stretch out my arms to God. The thunder will stop and the hail end so you’ll know that the land is God’s land. Still, I know that you and your servants have no respect for God.”

31-32 (The flax and the barley were ruined, for they were just ripening, but the wheat and spelt weren’t hurt—they ripen later.)

33 Moses left Pharaoh and the city and stretched out his arms to God. The thunder and hail stopped; the storm cleared.

34-35 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he kept right on sinning, stubborn as ever, both he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart turned rock-hard. He refused to release the Israelites, as God had ordered through Moses.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

May we live our lives truly believing God and what He says.  When we do “all fear is gone”, as our favorite hymn states.  Fear and worry dissipate when doubts disappear.  Jesus taught this Truth and later His disciples writing down all He said, consistently came back to these tenants of our faith. 

True belief with “as a child” faith in God brings to higher thinking and understanding about who God is.  God is for us not against us, God loved us before we knew we could love Him back.  God sent His Son to take our punishment for sins.  God IS the One and Only God, the God who can do the impossible.  There is NO ONE like our God!  So—

Believe and be saved—”And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10:13

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.  1 John 4:18

God will take care of His people.  God “drew a sharp line” between His People and their oppressor.  God will always take care of us.  God cannot lie, never turns back on His promises and loves always without conditions!

God never changes. God’s unfailing love for us drives Him to care for us through good times and challenging times on earth.  He is God—we are not.

“Take courage”, says Jesus, I have overcome the world!”

And closing with a Psalm of praise; “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

Lord,

Thank you for encouragement today.  You are with me right now as I write this and meditate on your words.  Now, help me to live what I say I believe!

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!

(By Bill & Gloria Gaither)

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NO GOD LIKE OUR GOD!

Currently, we are in the last days of summer.  The gnats and flies (along with mosquitoes) are making a comeback outside while we garden or try to eat a lunch on the back porch.  To say we do not like these pesky insects is an understatement.  We especially get annoyed when they come into our home, hover around our food and land on our faces while we are trying to eat!  Maybe we need to pray like Moses, asking God to get rid of them all!  This mere nuisance is a reminder of the story of God through Moses about the power our God has over all His creation!  God controls the gnats and flies—AND frogs! There is no one like our God!

What God does is amazing!  What God always does is beyond our wildest imaginations!  Don’t let these acts of power slide by our deeper thinking.  God even controlled WHO the flies landed on!  “I’ll set Goshen where my people live aside as a sanctuary—no flies in Goshen. That will show you that I am God in this land. I’ll make a sharp distinction between your people and mine.”  Wait, what?!  Yes!  There is NO ONE like our God!

My prayer…Could our home and yard be a sanctuary like Goshen with no flies, gnats or mosquitoes?  Nothing is impossible with God!  Then again, maybe we need to go a bit deeper into the story…it’s not about the creepy frogs and pesky insects as much as it is about the power of God. 

Exodus 8, The Message

Strike Two: Frogs

1-4 God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘God’s Message: Release my people so they can worship me. If you refuse to release them, I’m warning you, I’ll hit the whole country with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs—they’ll come up into your houses, into your bedrooms and into your beds, into your servants’ quarters, among the people, into your ovens and pots and pans. They’ll be all over you, all over everyone—frogs everywhere, on and in everything!’”

God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Wave your staff over the rivers and canals and ponds. Bring up frogs on the land of Egypt.’”

Aaron stretched his staff over the waters of Egypt and a mob of frogs came up and covered the country.

But again the magicians did the same thing using their incantations—they also produced frogs in Egypt.

Pharaoh called in Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to God to rid us of these frogs. I’ll release the people so that they can make their sacrifices and worship God.”

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Certainly. Set the time. When do you want the frogs out of here, away from your servants and people and out of your houses? You’ll be rid of frogs except for those in the Nile.”

10-11 “Make it tomorrow.”

Moses said, “Tomorrow it is—so you’ll realize that there is no God like our God. The frogs will be gone. You and your houses and your servants and your people, free of frogs. The only frogs left will be the ones in the Nile.”

12-14 Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, and Moses prayed to God about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. God responded to Moses’ prayer: The frogs died off—houses, courtyards, fields, all free of frogs. They piled the frogs in heaps. The country reeked of dead frogs.

15 But when Pharaoh saw that he had some breathing room, he got stubborn again and wouldn’t listen to Moses and Aaron. Just as God had said.

Strike Three: Gnats

16 God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and strike the dust. The dust will turn into gnats all over Egypt.’”

17 He did it. Aaron grabbed his staff and struck the dust of the Earth; it turned into gnats, gnats all over people and animals. All the dust of the Earth turned into gnats, gnats everywhere in Egypt.

18 The magicians tried to produce gnats with their spells but this time they couldn’t do it. There were gnats everywhere, all over people and animals.

19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is God’s doing.” But Pharaoh was stubborn and wouldn’t listen. Just as God had said.

Strike Four: Flies

20-23 God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes down to the water. Tell him, ‘God’s Message: Release my people so they can worship me. If you don’t release my people, I’ll release swarms of flies on you, your servants, your people, and your homes. The houses of the Egyptians and even the ground under their feet will be thick with flies. But when it happens, I’ll set Goshen where my people live aside as a sanctuary—no flies in Goshen. That will show you that I am God in this land. I’ll make a sharp distinction between your people and mine. This sign will occur tomorrow.’”

24 And God did just that. Thick swarms of flies in Pharaoh’s palace and the houses of his servants. All over Egypt, the country ruined by flies.

25 Pharaoh called in Moses and Aaron and said, “Go ahead. Sacrifice to your God—but do it here in this country.”

26-27 Moses said, “That would not be wise. What we sacrifice to our God would give great offense to Egyptians. If we openly sacrifice what is so deeply offensive to Egyptians, they’ll kill us. Let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to our God, just as he instructed us.”

28 Pharaoh said, “All right. I’ll release you to go and sacrifice to your God in the wilderness. Only don’t go too far. Now pray for me.”

29 Moses said, “As soon as I leave here, I will pray to God that tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh, his servants, and his people. But don’t play games with us and change your mind about releasing us to sacrifice to God.”

30-32 Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to God. God did what Moses asked. He got rid of the flies from Pharaoh and his servants and his people. There wasn’t a fly left. But Pharaoh became stubborn once again and wouldn’t release the people.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

The Magicians of Pharaoh came to the limits of their evil power.  I’m reminded immediately of our assurance from John, Jesus’ beloved disciple who writes, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  Satan, the Prince of this world, as Jesus calls him, is NO MATCH for God who lives in us because of Jesus’ redemption of us from the world.  We must tap into God’s power, the same power that rose Jesus from death!

“Ain’t some flies on some of you guys, but there ain’t no flies on me!  Huh!”  This church camp cheer is about this very story…or could be.  Mm, did the Goshenites begin the chant?  I wonder.  But what I do know and believe about our God is this:  Believers are not immune from the “flies in the ointment” of our existence but we cling to and rely on power of God to see us through all our circumstances and situations no matter what happens around us or to us.  There is no one like our God! Huh!

“Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”–Jesus, John 16:32-33

Bear in mind as we travel through the subsequent plagues that God has a plan, God will execute His plan and God will overcome those in the world of Moses and His People.  His Promises are unfailing.  His love is everlasting.  Where God sends; He will provide.  What God says; God will do.  It would be in our best interest to do what God says in our own lives!  Trust God, He knows what is best for each one of us.  He loves us more that we can comprehend!

Yes, there is NO ONE like our God!  Still, always, and forever! 

Unfortunately, believers like you and I today make similar “Egyptian compromises” as we seek to serve the Lord. The enemy tells us we do not have to be separated from sin because we can serve God “in the land.” God’s reply is found in 2 Corinthians 6:14–18. “Don’t go too far away,” the enemy whispers, “or people will call you a fanatic.” James 1:27 and 4:4 demolish that proposal.

Let my people go, is still “on the table” of discussion today as the evil one does everything in his limited power to keep us in bondage to him.  Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table!

True service to God means giving Him authority over all our possessions and all the people in our family for whom we are responsible. Not to do so is to disobey Mark 10:13–16; Ephesians 6:4; and Deuteronomy 6:6–13. Once we start to negotiate the will of God and see how close we can get to the world, we have already disobeyed Him in our hearts.  Don’t mess with God.  There is no one like our God!

The story of God does not end here…stay tuned!  God wasn’t through speaking to Pharaoh or judging the gods of Egypt. Jehovah God had seven more plagues to send, and when they were finished, the nation of Egypt would be bankrupt. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). 

Lord,

I come to you with a humbled heart.  Rid me of the arrogance that creeps in when I think I’m in control which is as annoying as insects hovering around food.  Take my life, all of it, and use me for Your glory.  I’m yours.  I’m listening.  You are the Bread of Life and the Living Water for my soul.  There is no one like You!  I trust in You, dear Jesus!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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NO MATTER WHAT, LOOK AT ME!

God will do what it takes in our lives to get our attention.  After Moses listens to God he tells him three times of his stutter, his inability to talk eloquently to other people, especially the command to speak to Pharoah the leader of Egypt!  I love what God commands of Moses next…LOOK AT ME!  Stop looking at who you are and what you do, but look at Me and what I will do through you.  We need this message often, don’t we?  Look up.  Look at God.

It reminds me of childhood. My parents, mom especially used these exact three words to get my attention…LOOK AT ME!  The words were emphasized with volume with a bit of aggravation in her tone.  The body language explained the rest with hands on hips.  She wanted my attention to tell me something very important to her that she thought I needed to hear so I would do exactly what she wanted me to do.  It was clear, she wanted my attention.

God says, “Look at Me” often in his word.  Why?  Because what He says is going to be the best for us.  When we look up the vision of what is around us grows blurry and dim.  We see God for who He is and what He can do—in us, through us and all around us.  When we realize God is in control of all circumstances and situations of this life and the life we will live with Him someday.  We gain strength by knowing He is with us.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks for God later in God’s Word…

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore you from captivity and gather you from all the nations and places to which I have banished you, declares the LORD. I will restore you to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

“Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other..”  Isaiah 45:22

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Jesus, God’s Son and spokesman said, “Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  Matthew 6:31-33

“Look up, look at Me, I will give you all you need.” –God, our Father

Genesis 7, The Message

1-5 God told Moses, “Look at me. I’ll make you as a god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to speak everything I command you, and your brother Aaron will tell it to Pharaoh. Then he will release the Israelites from his land. At the same time I am going to put Pharaoh’s back up and follow it up by filling Egypt with signs and wonders. Pharaoh is not going to listen to you, but I will have my way against Egypt and bring out my soldiers, my people the Israelites, from Egypt by mighty acts of judgment. The Egyptians will realize that I am God when I step in and take the Israelites out of their country.”

6-7 Moses and Aaron did exactly what God commanded. Moses was eighty and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

* * *

8-9 Then God spoke to Moses and Aaron. He said, “When Pharaoh speaks to you and says, ‘Prove yourselves. Perform a miracle,’ then tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh: It will turn into a snake.’”

10 Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what God commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his servants, and it turned into a snake.

11-12 Pharaoh called in his wise men and sorcerers. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing by their spells: each man threw down his staff and they all turned into snakes. But then Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs.

13 Yet Pharaoh was as stubborn as everhe wouldn’t listen to them, just as God had said.

Strike One: Blood

14-18 God said to Moses: “Pharaoh is a stubborn man. He refuses to release the people. First thing in the morning, go and meet Pharaoh as he goes down to the river. At the shore of the Nile take the staff that turned into a snake and say to him, ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you with this message, “Release my people so that they can worship me in the wilderness.” So far you haven’t listened. This is how you’ll know that I am God. I am going to take this staff that I’m holding and strike this Nile River water: The water will turn to blood; the fish in the Nile will die; the Nile will stink; and the Egyptians won’t be able to drink the Nile water.’”

19 God said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and wave it over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, its ponds, all its bodies of water—so that they turn to blood.’ There’ll be blood everywhere in Egypt—even in the pots and pans.”

20-21 Moses and Aaron did exactly as God commanded them. Aaron raised his staff and hit the water in the Nile with Pharaoh and his servants watching. All the water in the Nile turned into blood. The fish in the Nile died; the Nile stank; and the Egyptians couldn’t drink the Nile water. The blood was everywhere in Egypt.

22-25 But the magicians of Egypt did the same thing with their incantations. Still Pharaoh remained stubborn. He wouldn’t listen to them as God had said. He spun around and went home, never giving it a second thought. But all the Egyptians had to dig inland from the river for water because they couldn’t drink the Nile water.

Seven days went by after God had struck the Nile.

The story of God continues…stay tuned!

Lord,

Thank you for your word that teaches, encourages, corrects and gives us hope and life.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!  Yes!

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STUTTERING FAITH

It happens to all of us.  Our faith is strong and powerful after hearing a great message or while serving in ways that are making a difference in lives.  But then the tide changes.  Everything seems to all fall apart, (to us) and then our minds try to explain it—in unhealthy ways.  We first think, surely this is not the way it is.  As troubles seem to mount, we think; has God left us to wallow in this?  As the misery or attacks become harsher, we assume God is not there and we begin to blame others because He is not. We turn on each other!  We try to fix it.  Then we blame ourselves with self-loathing for who we are not.

God knows this about us.  God knew this about Moses.  God called upon a man who stutters.  But, get this friend, we need to realize that God wasn’t concerned at what Moses didn’t have, God’s purpose was for Moses to know God so well that His power would be evident to Moses.  Moses was learning, slowly like all of us, that what He has been commanded/called to do is not about him—it’s about God!  This is God’s story.  It is about I AM, who provides the exit path, the Way to bring his people out.  It is about God who will display His power in the rescue from slavery.  God is the One and Only who can redeem the “sons of Jacob”, the Israelites, while showing the rest of the unbelieving world how great God is as He intervenes with “great acts of judgment.  Yes! “I AM will be their God, taking them in as His own, under His protection.  “Ill be God to you.”

And that’s not all! The Promise to Abraham and his descendants is still intact.  God is eternally faithful.  God never changes in His great love for His people.  God will do what He promises.  God does what He says He will do.  Always. God was, is and always will be God.  And they are not. And we are not—God.

Genesis 6, The Message

God said to Moses, “Now you’ll see what I’ll do to Pharaoh: With a strong hand he’ll send them out free; with a strong hand he’ll drive them out of his land.”

2-6 God continued speaking to Moses, reassuring him, “I am God. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as The Strong God, but by my name God (I-Am-Present) I was not known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the country in which they lived as sojourners. But now I’ve heard the groanings of the Israelites whom the Egyptians continue to enslave and I’ve remembered my covenant. Therefore tell the Israelites:

6-8 “I am God. I will bring you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. I will rescue you from slavery. I will redeem you, intervening with great acts of judgment. I’ll take you as my own people and I’ll be God to you. You’ll know that I am God, your God who brings you out from under the cruel hard labor of Egypt. I’ll bring you into the land that I promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and give it to you as your own country. I AM God.”

But when Moses delivered this message to the Israelites, they didn’t even hear him—they were that beaten down in spirit by the harsh slave conditions.

10-11 Then God said to Moses, “Go and speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt so that he will release the Israelites from his land.”

12 Moses answered God, “Look—the Israelites won’t even listen to me. How do you expect Pharaoh to? And besides, I stutter.”

13 But God again laid out the facts to Moses and Aaron regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he again commanded them to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

The Family Tree of Moses and Aaron

14 These are the heads of the tribes:

The sons of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi—these are the families of Reuben.

15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar, and Saul, the son of a Canaanite woman—these are the families of Simeon.

16 These are the names of the sons of Levi in the order of their birth: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Levi lived 137 years.

17 The sons of Gershon by family: Libni and Shimei.

18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. Kohath lived to be 133.

19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.

These are the sons of Levi in the order of their birth.

20 Amram married his aunt Jochebed and she had Aaron and Moses. Amram lived to be 137.

21 The sons of Izhar: Korah, Nepheg, and Zicri.

22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, Elzaphan, and Sithri.

23 Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she had Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

24 The sons of Korah: Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph. These are the families of the Korahites.

25 Aaron’s son Eleazar married one of the daughters of Putiel and she had Phinehas.

These are the heads of the Levite families, family by family.

26-27 This is the Aaron and Moses whom God ordered: “Bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt clan by clan.” These are the men, Moses and Aaron, who told Pharaoh king of Egypt to release the Israelites from Egypt.

“I’ll Make You as a God to Pharaoh”

28 And that’s how things stood when God next spoke to Moses in Egypt.

29 God addressed Moses, saying, “I am God. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I say to you.”

30 And Moses answered, “Look at me. I stutter. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

The message is clear and understandable.  God is God and we are not.

God’s love is evident to us throughout His story.  God’s love is the same now and forever for He also provided The Way for us to be free from all the sin that enslaves us to this worldview thinking and behaving.  His new plan and promise to redeem us was fulfilled in sending His Son to take the punishment for our sin and in that act reconciled and restored us to God’s family, His people.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.”  2 Corinthians 5:18

God has called and commanded all of us, (Jesus in Matthew 28) to speak for Him, pointing people to know, believe, repent and be reconciled to God through Jesus.  God gave us His Son as the example of how to love, what it means to be a servant, with His power working in and through us (comparable to Moses!) to bring people OUT of where they are and INTO His Holy Presence.

“Believe and be saved” is what God has called all of us to say to our world of Pharaohs.    

“But I stutter, God.”  

And God says; “What does that have to do with my call on your life?”

Lord,

You are God and we are not.  Realizing this every day actually releases us from the stress we put on ourselves for trying to be you to other people. That is clearly not our work.  You commanded us to go and make disciples as we serve as your followers ourselves.  We are simply telling your story for your glory so that others might know you, believe in You and be saved from sin.  We tell, You save.  We go, You provide the ways and means.  Help us to always remember our place in your work.  Thank you for all you are and all you do.In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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JUST THREE DAYS, PHAROAH…

“A three-hour tour, a three-hour tour…”  Are you singing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island yet?  Just this phrase is a trigger to sing the song for me.  Okay, now the song is stuck in our heads.  Sorry.  Pull up a worship song. 

But, seriously, doesn’t this sound like what Moses/Aaron are asking Pharoah as God directed them to say?  “A three-day tour, a three-day tour…God said!

Gilligan’s Island recap:  What was going to be a pleasant ride, set free to enjoy a glorious three-hour tour on the waters of the sea turned ugly very quickly.  The three-hour tour ended up in shipwreck on an island where lives were altered forever—at least until the sitcom ended with a rescue.  It was pretty amazing to have so many survival “props”, though, right?! 

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour…

This silly story was a depiction of life where things get worse before they get better.

Exodus 5, The Message

Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh

After that Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh. They said, “God, the God of Israel, says, ‘Free my people so that they can hold a festival for me in the wilderness.’”

Pharaoh said, “And who is God that I should listen to him and send Israel off? I know nothing of this so-called ‘God’ and I’m certainly not going to send Israel off.”

They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can worship our God lest he strike us with either disease or death.”

4-5 But the king of Egypt said, “Why on earth, Moses and Aaron, would you suggest the people be given a holiday? Back to work!” Pharaoh went on, “Look, I’ve got all these people freeloading, and now you want to reward them with time off?”

6-9 Pharaoh took immediate action. He sent down orders to the slave-drivers and their underlings: “Don’t provide straw for the people for making bricks as you have been doing. Make them get their own straw. And make them produce the same number of bricks—no reduction in their daily quotas! They’re getting lazy. They’re going around saying, ‘Give us time off so we can worship our God.’ Crack down on them. That’ll cure them of their whining, their god-fantasies.”

10-12 The slave-drivers and their underlings went out to the people with their new instructions. “Pharaoh’s orders: No more straw provided. Get your own straw wherever you can find it. And not one brick less in your daily work quota!” The people scattered all over Egypt scrambling for straw.

13 The slave-drivers were merciless, saying, “Complete your daily quota of bricks—the same number as when you were given straw.”

14 The Israelite foremen whom the slave-drivers had appointed were beaten and badgered. “Why didn’t you finish your quota of bricks yesterday or the day before—and now again today?”

15-16 The Israelite foremen came to Pharaoh and cried out for relief: “Why are you treating your servants like this? Nobody gives us any straw and they tell us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look at us—we’re being beaten. And it’s not our fault.”

17-18 But Pharaoh said, “Lazy! That’s what you are! Lazy! That’s why you whine, ‘Let us go so we can worship God.’ Well then, go—go back to work. Nobody’s going to give you straw, and at the end of the day you better bring in your full quota of bricks.”

19 The Israelite foremen saw that they were in a bad way, having to go back and tell their workers, “Not one brick short in your daily quota.”

20-21 As they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them. The foremen said to them, “May God see what you’ve done and judge you—you’ve made us stink before Pharaoh and his servants! You’ve put a weapon in his hand that’s going to kill us!”

22-23 Moses went back to God and said, “My Master, why are you treating this people so badly? And why did you ever send me? From the moment I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, things have only gotten worse for this people. And rescue? Does this look like rescue to you?”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

As most stories go, “it gets worse before it gets better” can be applied here as Moses does what God says with the resistance God told him he would have.  God always knows.  But God also knows the way to rescue.  We need to realize that when we are in the middle of our own “three-hour tour” that takes us into the storms of life.  God knows. God cares. God has a plan. 

Jesus, while on this earth told his disciples and reminds us—”in this world you will have trouble, but relax, (take heart, be encouraged), I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)  I know it’s hard to relax until the storm dies down but we have greater tools at hand when our trust is fully in our Savior as Lord of our lives, who in just three days was raised to life forever—our HOPE! 

Do you feel shipwrecked on an island of no hope, it seems, of rescue? 

Are you in the “getting worse” stage?

Friends, I hear you!  I’ve been there many times.  Our trust is tested.  We want to bail from doing what God said.  We are not getting the results in life we thought would happen.  We are tired, tested and testy in our attitudes.  People are overwhelming us with questions we cannot answer…ugh! 

Our response is often similar to Moses’ honest pleas for help while doing God’s will—

WHY?  Why is this happening (like you warned us it would)?  Why is it worse instead of better?  Why did you send me to do this in the first place?  “Rescue, does THIS look like rescue to you?”

I’m not sure I could be this gritty in my honesty but then I think, God knows who I am and what I am feeling.  We should be as honest as Moses with God but we can do it with humility and respect.  This is what it means to have the “fear of God” in our hearts.  We know God enough to know He has our best interests at heart.  We know He loves us more than we can imagine.  We “fear” (respect) His awesome power and what He is capable of doing IN the rescue.  This fear-respect-awe leads to letting go of our efforts and accepting His will and plan completely.  The details of the rescue may not be what we expect, (it rarely is), but it will be a rescue—

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”  Paul, writing to the churches while in prison—Ephesians 3:20) 

A three-hour tour, A three-day tour…Life altering no matter which way you look at it!

It’s not over…stay tuned!

Lord,

Thank you for teaching us the hard lessons of letting go of our puny wills and weak plans by clinging to the power of your will, purposes and plan in us and through us.  Life is better, transformational, but it does get worse before it gets better because of what you must do IN us while rescuing us from ourselves and our selfishness. Thank you for your loving faithfulness and patience with me.  I know you are not finished yet with me!  I love you, Lord, heart, mind and soul.  Help me to love like you love—unconditionally.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!

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OBJECTING GOD IS DANGEROUS

We all see it—in others.  Then, if we are honest, we realize we all do it from time to time, too.  What is it?  Objecting to what God asks of us.  We question with a “pros and cons” list of why we can’t do what God says right now.  We object to what God is telling us by procrastinating, arguing with God with a plea of ignorance or false humility, or by simply walking away from what He has clearly shown us to be and do.  But God doesn’t give up easily—and that is a blessed miracle for each one of us! 

However, we can be so obstinate as we come dangerously close to crossing the line of God’s patience.  Our first thought, like Moses, at God’s “big ask” of us most often is “I’m not good enough”.  Right?  But then God reminds us that if He asked us to do it, He will make us more than worthy to fulfill His purpose in and through us.  Where He guides; He provides!

Exodus 4, The Message

Moses objected, “They won’t trust me. They won’t listen to a word I say. They’re going to say, ‘God? Appear to him? Hardly!’”

So God said, “What’s that in your hand?”

“A staff.”

“Throw it on the ground.” He threw it. It became a snake; Moses jumped back—fast!

4-5 God said to Moses, “Reach out and grab it by the tail.” He reached out and grabbed it—and he was holding his staff again. “That’s so they will trust that God appeared to you, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

God then said, “Put your hand inside your shirt.” He slipped his hand under his shirt, then took it out. His hand had turned leprous, like snow.

He said, “Put your hand back under your shirt.” He did it, then took it back out—as healthy as before.

8-9 “So if they don’t trust you and aren’t convinced by the first sign, the second sign should do it. But if it doesn’t, if even after these two signs they don’t trust you and listen to your message, take some water out of the Nile and pour it out on the dry land; the Nile water that you pour out will turn to blood when it hits the ground.”

10 Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.”

11-12 God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”

13 He said, “Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!”

14-17 God got angry with Moses: “Don’t you have a brother, Aaron the Levite? He’s good with words, I know he is. He speaks very well. In fact, at this very moment he’s on his way to meet you. When he sees you he’s going to be glad. You’ll speak to him and tell him what to say. I’ll be right there with you as you speak and with him as he speaks, teaching you step by step. He will speak to the people for you. He’ll act as your mouth, but you’ll decide what comes out of it. Now take this staff in your hand; you’ll use it to do the signs.”

* * *

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said, “I need to return to my relatives who are in Egypt. I want to see if they’re still alive.”

Jethro said, “Go. And peace be with you.”

19 God said to Moses in Midian: “Go. Return to Egypt. All the men who wanted to kill you are dead.”

20 So Moses took his wife and sons and put them on a donkey for the return trip to Egypt. He had a firm grip on the staff of God.

21-23 God said to Moses, “When you get back to Egypt, be prepared: All the wonders that I will do through you, you’ll do before Pharaoh. But I will make him stubborn so that he will refuse to let the people go. Then you are to tell Pharaoh, ‘God’s Message: Israel is my son, my firstborn! I told you, “Free my son so that he can serve me.” But you refused to free him. So now I’m going to kill your son, your firstborn.’”

* * *

24-26 On the journey back, as they camped for the night, God met Moses and would have killed him but Zipporah took a flint knife and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ member with it. She said, “Oh! You’re a bridegroom of blood to me!” Then God let him go. She used the phrase “bridegroom of blood” because of the circumcision.

* * *

27-28 God spoke to Aaron, “Go and meet Moses in the wilderness.” He went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. Moses told Aaron the message that God had sent him to speak and the wonders he had commanded him to do.

29-31 So Moses and Aaron proceeded to round up all the leaders of Israel. Aaron told them everything that God had told Moses and demonstrated the wonders before the people. And the people trusted and listened believingly that God was concerned with what was going on with the Israelites and knew all about their affliction. They bowed low and they worshiped.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

“What if they won’t believe” really means “I do not believe.” Moses was concerned about his credentials before the elders, so God gave him three signs to convince the elders that he was truly God’s chosen servant. 

When God speaks to us;  Believe.

Moses completely missed the message of God’s name and miraculous power. “I Am” is all that we need in every circumstance of life, and it’s foolish for us to argue, “I am not.”

Moses was making the mistake of looking at himself instead of looking to God. The God who made us is able to use the gifts and abilities He has given us to accomplish the tasks He assigns to us.  Who God sends; He supplies.

False humility is dangerous thinking and behaving and leads to objecting to what God has to say and want God wants to do in us and through us.  False humility is basically a “cop-out”.  Humility isn’t thinking poorly of ourselves; it’s simply not thinking of ourselves at all but making God everything.

The humble servant thinks only of God’s will and God’s glory, not his or her own inadequacy, success, or failure. Moses was clothing his pride and unbelief in a hollow confession of weakness.

“Lord, please, send anybody else!” was Moses’ final plea. Moses calls Him “Lord” and yet was refusing to obey His orders. Most of us understand that attitude because we’ve made the same mistake. Friends, We regularly resist, ignore, or deflect God’s commands—just as Moses did. We need to remember that if God isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all. Ouch, right?!

God knows us better than we know ourselves, so we must trust Him and obey what He tells us to do. When we tell God our weaknesses, we aren’t sharing anything He doesn’t already know. The will of God will never lead you where the power of God can’t enable you, so walk by faith in His promises.

God appointed Aaron to be the spokesperson for Moses, but Aaron wasn’t always a help to his brother.  Aaron was the one who conspired with the people to create a golden calf to worship later, defying God!  Aaron was also responsible for causing a riff between Moses and the people through gossip.  Mm, just like we do in God’s church, right?  God will sometimes give us what WE think we must have, but then we must live with it later.  How God must deeply sigh at our requests, negative attitudes, objectional thinking and behaviors, and our obstinance when what He is doing comes from a heart of compassion and deep love for all of us.

How much proof do we need to know that God loves us and wants His best for us?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16  God so loved; He gave.  God gave His Son, a part of Himself, to stand in our place, taking the punishment for our own sin. He died and rose again with each one of us on His mind.  He is the Truth, the only Way to eternal Life.

Believe, ask for His forgiveness, and be saved from self and our sin.  Object no more to the call of God.  Live forever with the One who loves us most!  He is our Hope, the One and Only who loves us most!  And He will always be with us!  He proves that to me over and over again in the course of a day.  Look up, see God at work in our lives!

Moses goes to the elders with Aaron.  On hearing that God was concerned for them and was about to rescue them, they bowed in grateful worship. Worship is the logical response of God’s people to God’s grace and goodness.

Lord,

Thank you for your unconditional love for your created!  Thank you for your wisdom, longsuffering patience with us, as well as your protection and provision.  Thank you for saving our souls and freeing us from the sin that entangles our lives.  Thank you for your ongoing, continual transformation of our hearts, minds and souls.   Thank you for this lesson of objectional response in Moses that eventually turns out for good.  Thank you for your teaching.  I’m yours.  Show me your ways and I will walk in them.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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